Berlin: Where to Stay and What to Do in This Weird Paradox of a City

Berlin: Home to currywurst, spacious sidewalks, tons of graffiti art, a stellar metro system, and grunge fashion.

I spent four nights in Berlin and, at first, I was not a fan.

The city felt cold, dreary, and unwelcoming.

I thought the Berlin Wall had been knocked down…but Berliners still seem to have walls up of their own… especially to block out Americans like myself. 😌

Of course, first impressions can be rather misleading. My first night in Berlin, I stayed at the Singer109 Hostel. It sucked. Do not stay there.

The folks at reception made me feel as though every question I asked was the biggest hassle ever and there was absolutely zero atmosphere. Though, I must say the rooms were rather nice…mine had an ensuite bathroom which is a rare find for most hostels. But still…not worth staying there!

So, where to stay instead?

I followed the advice of The Hostel Girl and checked into The Circus Hostel for my last three nights in Berlin. The atmosphere was night and day. I immediately felt better about Berlin and was excited to see what the city had to offer!

Ok, what should I DO in Berlin?

As I usually suggest…go on a walking tour! Similarly to the hostel in Copenhagen that I stayed at, The Circus offers free walking tours TWICE daily! So, if you sleep in and miss the 9:45 tour, you can always join the one at 1:15.

Our tour guide, Kyle, offered up tons of history about Berlin. For me, the highlight was seeing the hotel balcony (Hotel Adlon) where Michael Jackson dangled baby Blanket from all those years ago. 😂 I had no idea that was in Berlin…RIP MJ. 💙

Pop culture aside, Berlin is home to a lot of dark times in European history. The tour included a stop by the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the Holocaust Memorial. Selfies are not allowed (for obvious reasons) and, while you can sit on any of the 2,711 stones, folks should refrain from standing on them.

So, why is Berlin a “paradox”?

Well, Berliners like to think they’re super progressive and forward-thinking…but here are some weird things I learned about Berlin while visiting:

Most of the city is cash-only.

In fact, cash is still the means of payment in some 80 percent of point-of-sale transactions in Berlin! According to Bloomberg, “the use of cash has, to a surprising extent, become a proxy for profound concerns about trust, privacy, and the role of the state.” So, be sure to carry euros ALL the time!

Clubs will reject folks who dress nicely.

Heels, suits, colorful dresses…not cool in Berlin. Even locals suggest wearing all black, sneakers, and anything “grungy.”

If you don’t know your DJs, GTFO.

Again, according to locals and other tourists I chatted with, music is a BFD in Berlin. Bouncers will ask you what DJ you’ve come to see and, if you don’t have an answer, you can hit the road. Apparently, they do this to weed out tourists from the true house-music loving locals…but I think it’s rather unwelcoming. 🤔

For a city that claims to be so accepting and open, the folks here seem to follow an odd set of rules. Someone I met recently said Berlin reminded them of NYC and, being the native New Yorker that I am, I don’t agree. In all my travels, there is no city more open and welcoming to ALL then good ol’ NYC. 😍

Disclaimer: I didn’t hit the clubs while in Berlin…folks in the city START partying at 6AM and also drugs are a big thing (not surprising with the hours they keep), so… not really my scene.

HOWEVER, there was plenty I eventually learned to love about Berlin and I’ll write all about it in my next post!

Have you been to Berlin?! What’d you think? Let me know!

P.s. If you’re not already following me on Instagram, do it now! I’ve been posting plenty of entertaining stories…including a rather claustrophobic experience in Berlin — more on that in the next post!

Will you run away with me?

Spread kindness and cheer, xo

Jackie

Eating Danish Danishes and Other Things: 48 Hours in Copenhagen

The capital of Denmark, Copenhagen is home to over half a million folks! It’s a beautiful city with colorful houses and tons of history! Denmark is considered a part of Scandinavia, along with Sweden and Norway.

Thinking of running away to Copenhagen?! Read on for my tips!

Where to stay?

If you’re looking for a true hostel experience, you should definitely stay at the Copenhagen Downtown Hostel. It was Monica’s first hostel experience and we arrived late on a Monday night, walking through the PACKED bar/reception area…

“Are all hostels like this?!?” – Mon

Not all hostels are as lively as CPH Downtown, but most have cool vibes! (Except for Singer109 in Berlin…more on that in a future post…but heads up – don’t stay there!!)

What to do?

Copenhagen has a lot going for it:

  • Friendly folks
  • Very walkable, flat streets
  • An abundance of pastry shops

However, this city is expensive!! So, I recommend going on a FREE walking tour through a company aptly named “Copenhagen Free Walking Tours.” 😂

If you do this tour, try and get JAROD as your guide! He is hilarious and wonderful and, like most tour guides, not a native Scandinavian!

He took our group all around the city for about three hours! Mon and I learned that most of Copenhagen’s history involves buildings burning down, being built back up, and burning down again. Whoopsie! 😅

If you’re new to a city, walking tours are a great way to not only learn a bit of history but also to get yourself oriented and discover other things to do while you’re there!

After the tour, Mon and I went to a great outdoor/indoor food space called Torvehallerne. We each had a delicious taco and then a kimchi pancake that was SO good!

^ I tried it…not that hot.

In the same market area, we came across a game of Petanque…known to most Americans as bocce ball. The guys running it asked if we’d like to play a game…so, of course we joined in!

We ended our first day in Copenhagen at the bar in our hostel where we made some French friends. 💁

The second day, Mon and I walked around the second oldest amusement park in the world! It’s called Tivoli and it’s right by the CPH Downtown Hostel.

After that, we wandered around a bit more and went for a canal boat tour. ⛵

On this tour, I learned that the houses along the canal were painted so distinctly because they weren’t numbered back in the day! Mail carriers would literally deliver mail simply by knowing who lived in what colored house! 😂

Finally, for our last day in Copenhagen, I insisted we get Danishes! Mon and I ended up meeting fellow Americans and the four of us went together. Sooo worth it. 😍

Such a fun and beautiful city! Have you been? Are you planning a trip? Let me know!

Will you run away with me?

Spread kindness and cheer, xo

Jackie

Globetrotting with a Bootleg Phone Plan and No Data: A Solo Travel Guide

Happy Friday the 13th y’all! I’m in Berlin at the moment…I arrived yesterday evening and spent about 13 hours sleeping. 😂

As I eat currywurst (the national fast food of Berlin) for the first time in my life in a spot called KreuzBurger, I figured I’d also take the time to let y’all know how to survive solo travel in lands far, far away.

Pro tip: Don’t stress, plan less, and learn to wing it!

Easier said than done for most, I know, but don’t get caught up in all the little things when traveling abroad! As long as you have your plane ticket, a phone, cash/credit, and your passport, you’ll be just fine!

What about an international phone plan, Jackie?

Take it from someone who has an $80 LG phone that runs on Virgin Mobile and has been to 12 foreign countries…you don’t need an international phone plan. Once I leave American soil, I turn data off and solely rely on WiFi.

Of course, if you’re traveling to more remote places, etc., then investing in an international plan may be smart.

The great thing about most foreign countries… especially big cities in Europe…is that they have free public WiFi all around! Outside, inside, in the metro stations, on the buses, and essentially anywhere else you’d need it!

Also, did you know Google Maps works without WiFi?! As long as you know where you’re going, the locator dot will continue to tell you where YOU are on the map! So, as you move along, you can see if you’re heading in the right direction or not.

If you’re traveling alone, I recommend getting flights, trains, etc. that arrive during the day… especially if you plan on walking to your hostel, etc. once you arrive.

Berlin is the first foreign city I’ve ever traveled to alone where the main language isn’t English (save for Iceland, but I had been there before), so I booked a flight that got in at 5pm. This gave me allowance to get a bit lost in the streets as I made my way to my hostel (and I totally did 😂), knowing I’d have plenty of daylight to work with. Plus, I’m always sure to keep to main streets and, if Google maps isn’t helping me, I pop into a nearby cafe or shop to grab some WiFi. 😅

It may sound stressful but it really isn’t. I tell myself that if worst comes to currywurst, I can always hail a cab! (Hopefully… 😅)

Coming from NYC, I feel confident getting around any major city…even without relying on my phone!

Pro tip: Look up and actually READ the street signs and don’t fear getting lost!

I’ve found that folks who rely on their cell data and mapped out routes in foreign cities often miss out on little things because they’re so fixated on not missing a turn. I actually just met a girl from Australia who also said she doesn’t have an international plan because she doesn’t want to be staring at her phone during her travels!

This is the time to get out of your comfort zone and force yourself to talk to folks and SEE what’s around you! We’ve become so dependent on our phones but we don’t need them!

What do you do when you go abroad? Let me know in the comments!

Also…if y’all have any tips for Berlin, let me know! I’m here till Monday and have done zero research…whoops! 🤦

Will you run away with me?

Spread kindness and cheer, xo

Jackie

The Elephant House is Overrated and Other Musings from Edinburgh

Thinking I’d be inspired by the place where JK Rowling is said to have written her whimsical Harry Potter stories, I decided to grab breakfast at The Elephant House on my last morning in Edinburgh.

The Elephant House is literally around the corner from the hostel I hunkered down at (Budget Backpackers), so I figured why not stop by!

Tourist mistake numero uno!

The Elephant House is an odd little place. With menus in both Chinese and English, the place screamed ‘Chinese Restaurant.’

But nope, no Chinese. Just gluten-free cakes and a small selection of breakfast items. Which is good since that’s what I went for. However…

…after being seated, I waited at least 15 mins before I could get anyone’s attention to take my order. Eh, it’s busy – fair enough. BUT THEN…about 15 minutes after I’d ordered my eggs, I was told “Sorry, we ran out of eggs!”

It’s 11am!! How are you out of eggs?!

Needless to say, I was not impressed with this place. 😂 Although, kudos to the fresh-squeezed orange juice. I don’t know why that’s not a thing in America.

Also, this sign was cute but didn’t fit the atmosphere of the place at all.

So, I left disappointed, uninspired, and malnourished. 😂 Luckily, the spot literally next door was a cute French place (Patisserie Valerie) and THEY HAD EGGS!

Much more on Edinburgh to come, so stay tuned!!

Next Stop: Copenhagen

Will you run away with me?

Spread kindness and cheer, xo

Jackie